April 11, 2018, 11:47 pm
It’s over! The Wolves have finally done it! 14 years of agony and anguish, but also a little patience, has finally resulted in the elusive playoff appearance for a franchise that was down in the dumps for years.
The wait has been 14 years, but this process has been four years in the making. It started when the Wolves decided to reset the rebuild around Kevin Love and pivot to a rebuild around a younger core.
Andrew Wiggins was the first piece to the puzzle, acquired in the Love trade. Wiggins may not have developed as fast as some have liked, but he’s been a valuable contributor to this playoff squad.
Tonight Wiggins scored 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers, but most of all he made the two biggest free throws of his young career. In a two-point game in overtime, Wiggins was fouled and had a chance to put the Wolves up four points with 11 second. A 64 percent shooter on the season, he calmly sank both.
His defensive intensity was off the charts as well. He was fully engaged all night and held Wilson Chandler scoreless in 48 minutes. Fans have been waiting for this version of Wiggins to consistently arrive, and tonight he was everything they could ask for.
The next piece to the puzzle was drafting Karl-Anthony Towns with the first overall pick. KAT has obviously been on monster in his three-year career and was able to feast on the Nuggets all night long. He finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and one steal on 12-of-19 shooting.
KAT is feasting! pic.twitter.com/lA7pUO5pJT
— Hoop Ball Wolves (@HoopBallWolves) April 12, 2018
Towns is one of the best big men in the NBA and is just 22 years old. He’s the face of the franchise and has a chance to become not just an all-time great in Wolves’ history, but in the entire NBA.
His averages of 21.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.8 steals and 1.5 3-pointers on 54.5 percent shooting, 85.8 free throw shooting and 42.1 3-point shooting is matched by few other big men, but his 82 games played is what sets him apart. KAT isn’t only a special talent, he’s as dependable as they come.
Building around two No. 1 overall picks is a great starting point for any franchise, but the Wolves weren’t satisfied. They had a number of other complimentary pieces, but desired to add one more major player in an era of “Big Three’s” and “Super Teams,” so they went out and got the final piece to the puzzle, Jimmy Butler.
Butler was able to transform this team from a 31 win team into a 47 win team, and a playoff squad. The Wolves had the biggest jump in the win column in the tough Western Conference thanks to him. Butler’s intensity and every day mentality didn’t grow on the Wolves right away, but when it mattered most the young Wolves who remained were ready.
The Wolves went out and got Butler for games just like this one, and he delivered with 31 points, five assists, five rebounds, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer on 10-of-21 shooting and 10-of-13 at the line.
After missing 17 games down the stretch, Butler returned just three games ago. He had been limited to 23 minutes in the first two games, but tonight he played 42. The Wolves went 3-0 in his return.
While Butler as the final piece to the puzzle, his addition attracted other veteran additions, namely Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Both vets stepped up huge tonight. Teague shows up more in the box score, but Gibson had perhaps the most important defensive effort of the season.
Coming off an injury in the last game that limited him to eighth minutes, Gibson was playing at less than 100 percent, but refused to slow down. Like Butler, Taj was brought in to do the dirty work and he was able to deliver there.
The game was tightly contested throughout, but the Wolves did hold a lead most of the way. In fact late in the fourth Minnesota build an eight-point lead and things were looking bleak for Denver. After a timeout the Nuggets came out on an 8-0 run to tie the game.
After trading baskets, the Wolves and Butler had a chance to win the game. His shot bounced off and the Nuggets controlled the ball with four seconds left. That’s where Taj came in with the most important steal of the season.
— Kevin Brand (@KBranded) April 12, 2018
The game then went to overtime where the Wolves were able to handle their business, thanks to Wiggins’ free throws, and clinch their elusive playoff berth.
Wolves break NBA's longest postseason absence and holy crap is it about damn time pic.twitter.com/QSLQF3Tv9Q
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) April 12, 2018
The rebuild is finally complete. The first goal has been met. That doesn’t mean there isn’t more growth to come. This was step one in the process, now the Wolves have to make sure this becomes a regular occurrence.
Their matchup won’t be easy. With the Pelicans and Thunder winning, the Wolves are seeded eighth in the Western Conference and will face the top seed Houston Rockets.
Houston is 4-0 versus the Wolves this season, but each game Minnesota was able to get more and more competitive. The playoffs begin this weekend.